There are a lot of regional chili styles out there, and sometimes it seems that the debate about what should or shouldn’t go into chili overlooks what chili is really about – chiles.
This recipe blends whole dried chiles into an adobo sauce that gives this dish a nice, deep chile flavor.
2 pounds ground chuck (coarse grind if you can get it)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes with liquid
2 cans (20 ounce) dark red kidney beans, drained
2 cups beef broth
2 ancho peppers, dried
4 guajillo peppers, dried
2 chipotle peppers, dried
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Chili powder to taste
The night before – wearing rubber gloves, stem and seed the chiles. I find this easiest to do with a pair of kitchen shears. Gently pull the stem until it pops off (this often takes most of the seeds with it), cut open the side of the pepper, then spread it open and scrape out the remaining seeds and veins.
Fill a bowl about half full of hot water and have this ready beside the stove. Get some ventilation going with an open a window or an exhaust fan. In a dry skillet (no oil) over medium heat, fry the chiles in small batches for just for about 15-20 seconds a side until they start to change color and become fragrant. As they finish cooking, remove them to the bowl of water.
When all of the chiles are cooked and in the bowl, use a small plate to weight them down so they are completely covered in water. Let this sit overnight.
Drain the chiles, discarding the soaking water. In a sauce pan, combine the chiles and the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Blend the chile sauce until smooth. You can do this by running batches through a blend or food processor, but I find it easiest to just leave everything in the pot and use an immersion blender. Remove the pot from the heat and put it in the sink to help contain any splatters. Put the sauce aside to cool.
This is one of the few recipes that I find easier to start on the stove and then move to the Big Green Egg. You could do it all on the stove top, but then you’re missing out on all the wonderful flavor that smoke brings to the dish.
Set your grill or smoker up for at least a 3 hour cook over indirect heat at 300°F. On the Big Green Egg that means filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using the plate setter inverted with a trivet on it to diffuse the heat. I used a little guava wood for smoke.
On the stove, brown the ground beef in a large dutch oven or other grill-safe pan. Drain if needed. Season with the salt and add the onions, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the veggies go limp and the meat is fully cooked (about 5 minutes).
Add the adobo, mix and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans. Mix well and move the the grill. With the cover of the pan, close the grill lid and cook for an hour. Stir and check your seasoning, adding chili powder, salt or pepper as needed. Close the lid and cook for another hour. Adjust seasonings again, and serve.
I served this with some cornbread and honey butter. It was remarkable – great, well-developed, chile flavor with just enough heat for this yankee. In the end, I only added about a tablespoon of actual chili powder (Penzeys Chili 9000) to the whole batch, and that was mostly just because I wanted to give their new blend a try. It has a lot of great non-traditional ingredients like turmeric and cloves, that added even more interest to the dish.